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Why your AS-level grades still really matter

Contrary to what you may hear, AS-levels are still important following the recent shake-up of A-levels, in particular when it comes to applying for university...

If you’re in your AS year at the moment and tempted to take your foot off the pedal – and save all your effort for next year – stop and read this first.

What are AS-levels again?

‘AS-level’ (short for ‘Advanced Subsidiary’ level) refers to the first year of study at A-level (your ‘AS year’, so to speak), as well as being a standalone qualification in its own right.

Prior to recent reforms, your AS-levels were worth 50% of your A-level grade. Now, that’s not the case. In Ucas points terms, an AS-level qualification is worth 40% of a full A-level.

So do AS-levels count towards your final A-levels?

No. Your A-levels will be decided by the assessments you take at the end of your second year only. If you carry on an AS-level subject for a second year to obtain the full A-level, what you achieved in your first year can’t be ‘banked’ to count towards this. 

Can I still take AS-levels?

Yes, you can still study an AS-level for one year independent from any other subjects.

You have two options: 

  • study an AS-level in your first year, taking any necessary assessments at the end of the year; 
  • or pick up an AS-level in your second year, alongside the subjects you’ve carried on with.

But keep in mind that if you do the latter, you might find yourself juggling AS-level assessment with those for the all-important A-levels that will decide your final grade.

Therefore it might be wise to get your AS-level out of the way in your first year, pick up the Ucas points from this and focus on your full A-levels in your second year.

See where your A-levels will take you: enter them in our Explorer tool

Why are AS-levels important?

  • Universities can see your AS grades when you apply for a course
  • They will shape your predicted grades
  • They might count towards Ucas entry points

We’ve got more on each below.

1. Universities can see them when you apply for a course

The presence or absence of AS grades on your Ucas application won’t affect your consideration for a course: in fact, universities will be mindful of the fact that not all schools offer AS-levels. This can be something your teacher addresses in their reference for you, too.

But if you do have AS grades on your application, the grades themselves could factor into a university’s decision to offer you a place or not. After all, these grades will be the most recent, hard-and-fast, exam-based evidence of your academic ability that an admission tutor has to hand. 

In the absence of AS grades, universities may look at your GCSE grades, as this will be the last formal assessment you took. That said, AS grades would be a more reliable indicator of how you’re performing currently.

Keep in mind also that the grade for the AS-level you dropped at the end of Year 12 will be available for a university to see, too. If a special circumstance meant you weren’t able to achieve your full AS potential however, your teacher can mention this in the reference provided in your Ucas application.

A-levels not going so well? Browse our revision and study tips section.

2. Your AS results will shape your predicted grades

Your teachers will set your predicted A-level grades with your AS performance in mind. Given that the A2 year is more difficult, it's unrealistic to expect them to predict grades that are significantly higher. Find out what your predicted grades are before you begin making your final university course choices, so your picks aren’t wildly out of reach.

Until you have your A-level predictions, match your actual achieved AS grades to the entry requirements of the universities you are interested in applying to. Be realistic and consider options with both slightly higher and lower grades to make sure you’ve got a good mix of courses to make your final choices from.

Match your grades to courses by A-levels, Ucas points and SQA Highers

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    3. They might count towards Ucas entry points

    While a university’s entry requirements for a course will revolve mainly around your final A-level grades, any AS-level grades you do have to your name could contribute to the number of Ucas points you apply with, if a university is flexible in its entry requirements. 

    This will often be down to whether a university you’re applying to does indeed ‘talk in’ Ucas points. As we’ve seen in our investigation of the hidden rules of entry requirements, some, more competitive universities will be concerned with the specific qualifications and grades you’ve achieved (rather than just the Ucas points they translate to).

    Search for a course to see what the university are asking for in their entry requirements.

    Where could your A-levels take you?

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